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William Shakespeare Primary Sources

Historical documents. What clues can you gather about William Shakespeare, the time, place, players, and culture?

The First Folio

Browse the Folger Library's online version of the original 1623 edition of Shakespeare's first collected works. The text is beautiful but hard to read—visit the University of Virginia's site for readable plays.

Shakespeare's Plays

The University of Virginia has put the text of Shakespeare's plays online.

"Venus and Adonis"

Text of Shakespeare's first published poem.

"The Rape of Lucrece"

Text of the 1594 poem.

Shakesepeare's Sonnets

The full text of the 1609 edition of his poems.

History of Primary Documents

Most of what scholars know about Shakespeare is pieced together through church records, property records and other such primary documents. This is a list of every known primary document referencing Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's Will

You can send an e-card of the handwritten testament, complete with Shakespeare's signature. Not sure why you'd want to.

"A Room of One's Own"

Had Bill Shakespeare been born as Belinda, he would never have received the education that allowed him to write his masterful plays. In this essay Virginia Woolf points out this injustice by imagining Shakespeare's fictional sister, Judith.

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